Close this search box.
Close this search box.
Living Lightly column

When many small contributions add up to large change

By Lauriston Muirhead

Let’s deal with one of the more transparent fig leaves that our government uses to try to hide an appalling record on emissions reduction and effective climate action.  I mean that tired old chestnut trotted out by politicians to excuse their pathetic efforts – “but we only emit 1.2% of the world’s emissions!”  How un-bloody-Australian is that!?  Since when do good people say, “We’re not going to help clean up because we’re not making as much mess as that mob over there.”  Is that what ambos, nurses and doctors say? Does a team player say, “I am not as big as some of my mates so I am not going to try?”

Does our government really mean that we, one of the richest, most successful nations, should not be at the forefront of climate repair?  We have the highest per capita emissions of the developed world.  Even looking from the point of view of self-interest, Australia is already suffering earlier and more than most from climate change impacts.  Remember the smoke and fires anyone?  We should be setting the most ambitious targets, helping other nations and saying, “C’mon, let’s do this!”   Was Australia built on a foundation of faint-hearted cowardice?  No!  It was built on innovation, bravery and the resilience of strong men and women who did what needed to be done.

Working on the principle that a small contribution is insignificant would mean we could all stop paying tax!   Our individual contributions are so small compared with the total, that we could say they are insignificant and stop paying!  However, we all know that doing our bit contributes to health, education,  and all the other things that make up a great nation.

When we talk about our “1.2% of global emissions” we conveniently forget about all the fossil fuels we export.  Australia is now the largest exporter of coal and liquid natural gas in the world.  If we include the emissions from our exports, suddenly we are responsible for around 5% of the world’s emissions.  This would make us the fourth worst emitter after China, USA and India – countries with fifteen to fifty times our population.

So, once and for all, let’s stop using pathetic and un-Australian excuses such as “but-we-only-emit 1.2%”.